Author Topic: How to scratch an itch?  (Read 590 times)

Offline Tonteldoos

How to scratch an itch?
« on: March 29, 2021, 02:25:15 PM »
I recently acquired an ifi ZEN DAC, and I use it with a pair of Sennheiser HD598SE headphones. It sounds really good, and I prefer this to my wireless noise cancelling headphones (PXC550). I have upgraded the stock cable (to Tributaries Series 6), already use the iPower power supply, and upgraded the firmware (to v5.3c).

At work I mostly use the Tidal desktop app on my laptop. I use Apple Music (iTunes app) as backup. At this stage I'm not interested in any alternatives.

As much as I love the sound, I can't help feeling that the headphones are now "holding me back"... I don't need to buy immediately, but I've been researching different options, and so I'm turning here for some opinions.

If I had to summarize my needs:
  • Whatever I buy must be a substantial sonic upgrade from the HD598SE's
  • Obviously they must be wired, and I found I really like the open-back sound
  • They must be very, very comfortable, at least like these Sennies
  • I'm not married to Sennheiser, but I know the brand well and do like the sound

On to what I have been looking at:
  • Sennheiser HD660S: Reviews seem resoundingly positive, although I've read some that suggest they're a step down from the HD600 & HD650
  • Which means I could consider the Sennheiser HD600?
  • The BeyerDynamic Amiron Home or DT1990 Pro seem like very viable alternatives
  • I have looked at some other brands, but often the reviews suggest that they can be uncomfortable, and so I generally ruled them out

These aren't cheap headphones, so I'm worried about buying sight unseen/unheard, but since I'm not in a rush I'm happy to wait a bit and hear some forumites' wisdom or experience?

Offline Doge

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Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2021, 03:00:18 PM »
It's not that the 660 S is a step down per se, it's more that it does not scale as well with better amplifiers... I personally found the Zen DAC wasn't really able to image very well on the 6XX when things got complex anyway.

I also I generally found that the upper-mid dip in the 660 very welcome as the 600 can be a bit shouty with the side-on driver angling and the bass is of a higher quality and better extended, but the treble quality is not quite as good as the 600/650.

None of the 6xx series are really perfect, although if they were all similarly priced I'd probably take the 660 over the others, but I do own the 6XX as a pallet cleanser, of the Sennheiser stable I quite enjoy the 560 S... it's a significant upgrade over the 598 and closer to what I look for in a headphone.

Offline Tonteldoos

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2021, 03:47:51 PM »
That is useful, thank you.

And how would you rate the 650 vs 600?

From what I read, the 600 can be clinical (good recordings sound good, ok recordings not so much). And I want to enjoy all music, not just audiophile stuff. Apparently the 650 is better with that?

I didnít think that the 560S would offer much on top of the 598, so you gave me something to think about.

I reckon itís sensible to get something that will scale if I get round to upgrading the ZEN?


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Offline dingeth

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2021, 04:55:21 PM »
Hi OP

Not sure what your budget is, but in the price range of the headphones you've listed, there's also the very well regarded Hifiman Sundara that might be a nice change to what you're used to with the HD598SE.
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Offline Doge

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Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2021, 05:10:54 PM »
From what I read, the 600 can be clinical (good recordings sound good, ok recordings not so much). And I want to enjoy all music, not just audiophile stuff. Apparently the 650 is better with that?

I reckon itís sensible to get something that will scale if I get round to upgrading the ZEN?

They're both quite clinical really (without being analytical) so they both sound good-to-okay on pretty much anything, the difference with the 650 is that it's just a bit warmer and looser, akin to moving a set of speakers closer to the back wall, except that they're just the slightest bit more refined.

As for scaling the most important thing is not to get a headphone that the Zen can't drive.

Online neilh

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2021, 05:56:55 PM »
Or add a CAN to the stack for those headphones that the Zen can't drive on its own

+1 on the Sundara recommendation, at the moment this is also top of my list just ahead of 660/6XX

Offline naughty

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2021, 06:07:31 PM »
i reckon the Sundara is a good option since i have a HD599 and also a Hifiman HE4xx and IMHO the HE4xx is a fair amount better at a lot of things than the Sennies - (the 599 is supposed to better than the 598 even the SE version) - the main thing that the Sennie excels in over the Hifiman is the width of the soundstage but the Sundara is supposed to be a lot better in that respect amongst almost every other aspect also

if you do get the Sundara though the main disadvantage is that the sensitivity is very low so you will want an amp with a bit of vooma - so it might help if you get the Sundara and then as your finances recover you get something like a iFi Zen Can amp to add to the DAC as a stack - that total combination may just be a very well balanced setup IMHO and the headphones will also be capable of scaling up if you start getting better amps and DACs as you go along

   

Offline kamikazi

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2021, 06:08:57 PM »
See if you can maybe get a chance to listen to a couple of a headphones through demos? It is unfortunately a touch tricky in today's Covid times to have headphone meets and the like, but those can help a lot before spending a lot of money while you are still trying to find a sound that you like, otherwise you are forced to experiment with buying a couple of models to discover your preferences which can work out a bit expensive. There is generally quite a bit of variation in sound between different manufacturers, more so than with speakers imo, so experimentation is quite an important element.

Not too long ago it was quite viable to purchase a bunch of decent audiophile quality headphones, but unfortunately the hobby has seen significant price inflation, exceeding that of general stereo Hi-Fi, in recent years so I'm finding it difficult to specifically recommend headphones. The headphone model that might give you the kind of jump over the HD598 that are looking for could end up being a significant factor more expensive that what you've initially bargained on. You might consider a HD600 only an incremental upgrade. So part of your search will be to figure out whether there is something good enough that can live with or whether you'd need to invest a serious amount.

In terms of recommendations with Sennheisers, personally I prefer the HD600 to the HD650 and think they are both a good step up from the HD598, but I don't find either of these models particularly engaging to listen to, though they are quite fatigue free for long listening sessions. The HD600 had a bit of a heavy clamp on my head that caused a bit of discomfort with longer sessions. The HD6XX would be a really good headphone to start out with.
I have a sneaky suspicion that you might like something like the Audeze LCD2 if you get an opportunity to listen to them. They might have a bit of a special sound that you might be looking for. There have been a few recent threads regarding driver reliability so I'd definitely recommend getting something like those from a reputable dealer. The Beyerdynamic DT880 could also be an alternative, but I can't comment on the sound of those as I've yet to hear them.

One brand I be cautious with is Hifiman, unless you can get a well looked after headphone 2nd hand or something like the HE400i new, as I don't feel they offer the kind of quality or build that is in line with the pricing that they are asking for in the retail market. They also regularly launch new models that cause existing headphone models to suffer disproportionately from depreciation in the 2nd hand market. Some of their models sound really good and they have made quite some improvements in terms of comfort, but on my headphone I had earpads quite literally falling apart and headphone cables suffering oxidation issues and had to re terminate the headphone sockets though the headphone itself is still working fine after nearly 10 years of ownership.

Offline Tonteldoos

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2021, 08:43:03 AM »
Thank you for all the feedback.

It seems to me that the norm is to have (and use) several options, particularly at the low/mid levels.

One interesting view I read elsewhere, is that the headphones everyone always seem to compare to, are the HD600/650/6XX family (even if it's always along the lines of "they're good, but...". That reviewer suggested that it would be a good starting point (benchmark, if you like) if you are stepping up in the headphone world. From there you can always keep them or branch to other options.

Fortunately I don't have to decide immediately!

Offline GECO

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2021, 11:51:26 AM »
Start collecting buddy.
FIY. Your preamp makes a great hp amp.

Offline Tonteldoos

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2021, 04:28:27 PM »
FIY. Your preamp makes a great hp amp.

 :thinking: that might be an interesting experiment.

I guess I'd need a headphone to RCA adapter, and plug the headphones into the outputs that would normally go to the power amp?


Offline kamikazi

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2021, 05:09:07 PM »
:thinking: that might be an interesting experiment.

I guess I'd need a headphone to RCA adapter, and plug the headphones into the outputs that would normally go to the power amp?

It is an option, just mind the output impedance on the pre-amplifier as it could limit you to high impedance headphones only (e.g. 150 ohm or higher).

Offline Hi-Phibian

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Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2021, 06:06:51 PM »
HD600.  Quad ESL63/LS3/5A /Harbeth P3 / PROAC

H4xx Magnepan

HD650 quad ESL63 with a sub.  More fun but not as tidy and a bit sloppy.   
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Offline SeanS

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2021, 08:32:35 PM »
HD650 quad ESL63 with a sub.  More fun but not as tidy and a bit sloppy.

must say.. I use these daily (HD650), with a Yulong DA8, they do not set the world alight but do everything right as far as all day headphones go, although all day headphones would be underselling them. I also have an outboard headphone amp (Williams Hart / DIY) which takes them up a notch.

Offline EliteOp

Re: How to scratch an itch?
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2021, 11:25:18 AM »

  • The BeyerDynamic Amiron Home or DT1990 Pro seem like very viable alternatives

These aren't cheap headphones, so I'm worried about buying sight unseen/unheard, but since I'm not in a rush I'm happy to wait a bit and hear some forumites' wisdom or experience?
I use the 1990's as my daily driver (music and gaming) and have had only the Sennheiser 58x's to compare. Details, sound stage and placement is miles better on the 1990's. Referred to as Analytical headphones and extremely little if any warmth added. Base is fast and accurate and in no way heavy. You can swap the pads to play around with the low's as I've done with Dekoni's but I tend to stick to the stock pads as I have the Meze 99 Noir's for the "basey fun" :Whoohoo:. The sibilance on these are just a tad below what most people can handle though (from what I've read its on most of the Beyern's?), but I'm lucky to also fall in that category and enjoy clarity on the mids and highs.
Build wise these are stellar and solid. Nothing on them feels plastic or cheap, German precision craftmanship at its best imo. Needless to say heavier than the Sennheiser's but not so much that I can't wear them for 4+ hours of listening tracks or gaming. Clamping is tighter than the 58x's but wears in after a while to fit more comfortable even though still tighter.